We close for a few days to prepare for the family party we are hosting at the weekend. We manage to put up bunting without smashing any of the pendant lights or knocking over furniture. Family starts arriving on the Friday afternoon before the main event the following evening. It’s Emily’s mum’s 80th and all four of her daughters, their partners and children (including granddaughter-in-law to be) are coming. Also here are her brother and his wife all the way from New Zealand. It’s lovely having our own children here together and seeing them catching up with their cousins as well as indulging in some intense games of ‘Werewolves’ into the night. We’ve undertaken the catering (twenty three covers) but the task is lightened to manageability with the assistance of all the young people who have worked with us over the summer. Matthew, one of Ann’s sons-in-law, has put together a film of daughters and grandchildren sharing recollections of time they’ve spent with their octogenarian mother/grandmother. It’s a brilliant film. After the evening meal there’s some live music from our children before the tables are cleared away for dancing in the moonlight (always a floor filler). When Emily inadvertently picks up and takes a drink from the wrong wineglass she’s accused of ‘minesweeping’ by her daughter. A good time is had by all.
The following weekend is the NYMR’s well established ‘war weekend’ when the railway and the stations along its length are taken back in time to WW2. There’s period music, theatre, parades and displays and lots and lots of people dress up in WW2 uniforms or 1940s civilian clothes. We’re told there will be around 30,000 visitors to the village over the three day weekend. We simplify our menu in anticipation of the need to cope with crowds of hungry people. For ‘the duration’ we leave our espresso machine off and serve filter coffee, lots of tea and buns and sandwiches and soup. The ‘utility’ menu goes down well as do the ‘home front savouries’ (vegetarian sausage rolls to me and you) Bill bakes. At times it feels surreal with slightly long-in-the-tooth looking soldiers (but not old enough to be actual WW2 veterans) from the Free French and Free Dutch (Princess Irene) divisions chatting to each other in French over their tea and savouries. Emily wears dungarees, a pinny and headband in an approximation of ‘Rosie the Riveter’ and Bill looks like a draft-dodger in braces and a collarless shirt. With the help of our weekend staff we cope with two very busy days. When people express disappointment that we aren’t serving lattes we tell them it can’t be helped - there’s a war on.
Our architect has entered our project in a competition run by the North York Moors National Park (our planning authority) and we win a design award. We attend a meeting of the planning committee in Helmsley and are presented with the award. The judges were impressed with the combination of domestic and commercial premises, the sympathetic conversion and the way we have coped with the constraints of the site. It’s nice to be recognised.
Like much of the country, we endure two days of heavy rain which swells the Murk Esk below us to ten times its normal depth. The few hardy souls who brave the outdoors and find their way to us are grateful for the warmth and chance to relax with a cup of the beverage of their choice. One family stays for four hours, collectively working its way through much of our menu. We have a pretty busy weekend with the steam gala at the end of September but manage to cope with the two of us supported by our regular weekend staff: Lewis, Chloe and Chris. They’ve been with us since we opened and make a brilliant team, confident and capable. We’re really pleased and lucky to have them.
We’re closing for a week now - one of the joys of being our own bosses. We are hosting a big family party at the end of the week and want to take the time to recharge our batteries and prepare for the event. It will be fun drawing on our coffee shop experience to cater for the twenty-one family members who will be coming up to celebrate a significant milestone birthday. Emily’s mother, Ann, will be eighty.
A former teacher at Grosmont School sends us a school year photograph from 1983, her time here. It’s interesting to see it in comparison with the 1890 photo we already have, not to mention seeing the 1980s fashions of the children and staff.
We receive copies of some historical material from the local record office in preparation for the upcoming ‘War Weekend’ when the village of Grosmont and the steam railway revert to the 1940s. We have found mentions of soldiers being billeted in the school as well as the school buildings being closed after serious bomb damage. The school was temporarily relocated to the Methodist hall in the village, an arrangement which lasted for over 18 months. We also found mentions of evacuee children in the school register, some from Hull, but others from as far afield as London. We wonder what they made of this place after London.